Gerry asks Protestants of West Belfast to get out and vote

Having more than likely twisted the arms of direct rule ministers to put in the clause that shifted the rules over who gets to be First Minister, Gerry Adams is now chiding Unionists gently saying they “should get real about what the issues are. The (First and Deputy First Ministers) have co-equal powers in a co-equal department.”

But his next pitch was much more interesting. West Belfast no longer has a Unionist seat, not because it doesn’t have enough Unionists living there, but because too few have registered in the past and fewer have gone out to vote. In fact that’s changed substantially this year. Suffolk (which had been suffering depopulation) is almost full and registrations are already high.

Mr Adams it seems was, helpfully, getting the DUP’s message out for them:

“The biggest section of working- class unionism are those who don’t vote, who were abandoned many decades ago by ‘big house’ unionism and don’t feel any affinity with politics,” he said.

“I would be very, very pleased if these people came out and registered their vote. I am not suggesting that unionists are going to ‘flip’ and become republicans overnight, but many will recognise it is the issues of disadvantage which we have prioritised.”

I’m not sure how many votes it will get them in West Belfast (where memories are long and experiences of the troubles (and even the post Troubles) era truamatic, but it is smart politics. Not least because it is in an area where, as we discovered back in 2003, loyalists are often more credulous of Sinn Fein’s view on matters than politicians on their own side of the fence.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty